Leading researchers and experts now believe that we only suffer from one single disease in our lifetime, Ageing. This ageing results in a progressive decline in our regenerative capacity and results in different disease diagnoses, including cancer and other chronic diseases depending upon which cells are affected by the ageing process. In this blog, we are going to provide some important stats and facts about ageing and cancer prevention, and also key action steps you can take for health and longevity.
The Australian Cancer Council has predicted that by 2040, we will have 1.9 million people living with cancer. It is predicted that 58% of these people will be over 70 years in age, with 90% of all people living with cancer over the age of 50. The lifestyle choices that you make today, can positively impact your health, slow your body's ageing and reduce or delay your risk of a cancer diagnosis. The following blog will further explore ageing, cancer prevention, and longevity.
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Ageing will be accelerated by certain activities and lifestyle habits such as smoking, excessive exposure to UV rays, drinking and obesity. Although we associate ageing with an increase in number of wrinkles, declining vision and hearing, memory loss and diminishing physical function, we need to consider what happens at the cellular level. Once we do this, we can make positive changes to our thinking and habits to prevent cancer and other diseases and improve our longevity.
HALLMARKS OF BIOLOGICAL AGING
- Genomic Instability: an increased tendency for genetic changes or DNA mutations in cell division.
- Telomere attrition: loss of our chromosome’s protective caps over time that limits cell division.
- Epigenetic alteration: an activation or silencing of genes and prevention of genes doing their jobs due to a change in the structure of the DNA without changing the DNA sequencing.
- Loss of proteostasis: loss of the pathway that functions to maintain proteins in or around a cell.
- Deregulated nutrient sensing: affecting a cell's ability to adjust its metabolism to the amount of nutrients available.
- Mitochondrial Dysfunction: a decreased ability of mitochondria to produce energy.
- Cellular senescence: cell division stops.
- Stem cell exhaustion: depletion of stem cells
- Altered intercellular communication: the change in signals between cells especially an increase in inflammatory signalling.
EFFECTS OF INFLAMMATION ON THE BODY
This cellular and biological ageing is highly related to inflammation: a protective response of our immune system to protect against damage and foreign molecules or pathogens. Normally inflammation is key to supporting our white blood cells to function. However, the amount of inflammation needs to be controlled as it can also cause damage and destroy healthy tissue. This is a central strategy for healthy ageing and cancer prevention.
A low grade level of continuous inflammation is known to be at the core of most of our health problems. It explains why some seemingly healthy young individuals may have more adverse or overzealous responses to infection or virus, as we have witnessed in relatively healthy young individuals during the COVID 19 pandemic.
Research has shown that we can reduce our inflammation by activating certain enzymes and proteins that help with cellular repair and cleaning. These have been found to be stimulated when our bodies face certain adverse circumstances. We can reproduce these conditions within our bodies by a few adaptive habits which include:
Intermittent fasting -
Delaying breakfast until 11am increases the amount of time that your body is fasting overnight.
Short bursts of intense exercise -
In your exercise regime, include at least 3 times a week exercising intensely to fatigue. This may even involve 1-2 sets of peddling intensely on a stationary bike for 20-30 seconds or walking quickly up your front stairs. This also helps reduce a side effect of aging called Sarcopenia (as shown in the above graphic), a progressive and generalized skeletal muscle disease resulting in reduced muscle mass.
Sarcopenia is associated with increased likelihood of outcomes including reduced mobility, falls, fractures, physical disability, and mortality. Research has shown that if we can maintain good levels of exercise, we can preserve our muscle mass well into our later years. Building muscle later in life is possible but requires more effort, so ideally, we should build good muscle mass in our youth and maintain it throughout our lifetime.
Calm exposure to temperature extremes -
Turn your tap to cold and while controlling your breathing calmly endure the discomfort for a minute or two at the end of each shower or alternatively enjoy a sauna 2-3 times a week.
Research is also finding that other key habits can also improve our longevity:
- Preserve and improve your quality of sleep: Avoid alcohol, blue light from screens and caffeine in the hours before bed.
- Diversify your gut microbiome: Include fermented foods like Kimchi, Sauerkraut and Kombucha in your diet.
- Listen to music: Particularly before bed as it slows breathing and improves sleep.
- Eat up to 30 different plant foods each week: These include fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, seeds, grains, herbs and spices. It is also of benefit to enjoy a meat free day or two throughout your week and reduction in the amount of processed food that we have within our diet. This will inadvertently reduce the amount of chemicals and sugar that are hidden within our meals and snacks.
Boost your positive brain chemicals: Practice gratitude and a positive mindset or spend some time with your loved ones or pets. This produces a calming effect by activating cellular rest and repair through the parasympathetic nervous system.
It is always encouraging to know that by changing our lifestyle habits we can gain significant benefits, even if we adopt these strategies later in life. By reducing the amount of inflammation in our bodies, we are preserving and maintaining the health of our cellular function, slowing our ageing process, preventing the development of chronic diseases and cancer, and improving our longevity. In addition, you will notice that you feel lighter, and brighter and have an increase in your energy stores.
Adding one new habit at a time into your daily and weekly routines is the most effective way to produce long term change, helping with healthy ageing and cancer prevention.
If you or someone you know is affected by cancer and would benefit from an introduction to Julie Allen and The Pentimento Project, please click here to contact the reception team at PhysioTec to arrange for an appointment.
Do you you need help recovering from an injury? Improving your performance? Or just getting back to doing the things that you love? Visit us at PhysioTec, and let one of our physios assess you and provide you with a personalised program to help you get on-top of your condition, and feel at your best.
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This blog was written by Julie Allen, Principal Physiotherapist of The Pentimento Project, a cancer rehabilitation service operating independently within the clinic of Physiotec Physiotherapy since 2010, supporting people with cancer to reach their goals, improve their quality of life, and move beyond their cancer experience. You can read more about Julie here.
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